Frustration is mounting over the Yukon government’s approach to purchasing and renovating a Porter Creek property on Wann Road into a potential group home.
Jim Kenyon, who lives at 26 Wann Rd. and is a former Yukon Party cabinet minister, admits he has personal concerns about the proposed facility.
“We’ve had four break-ins, we’ve lost over $25,000 in materials that have been stolen,” he told the Star today. “But I think the bigger issue is the kids.”
Kenyon pointed to multiple liquor-vending establishments in the area – Whiskey Jacks Pub and Grill, Trails North Car & Truck Stop, the Casa Loma – and the area’s troubles with drug activity and drug-related crime.
“From what I understand, they’re looking at kids that are just about to age out of the system – you’re talking about 17, 18-year-olds. The most vulnerable, to my mind.
“And you’re putting them in a high-drug area.”
Pat Living is a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services.
She explained in a Monday email to the Star that the group home the government is exploring at 22 Wann Rd. would house “older youth, including those getting ready to transition to independent living.
“It will be staffed 24/7,” she noted.
But Kenyon wants to know why the government selected this particular site for a group home – a project with a hefty price tag.
Realtor Marc Perreault confirmed Monday that there is a conditional agreement for sale of the property, listed at $1.1 million without an additional parcel of land now included in the agreement.
In addition to area challenges with drugs, alcohol and crime, Kenyon also has concerns about the property’s topography.
He’s not sure they have been fully considered by Health and Social Services officials in their move to purchase the property.
An assistant deputy minister for the department told him “there had not been any departmental studies or documents to examine the best location and provide information for a meaningful decision,” Kenyon wrote in an email to a development officer with the city’s land and building services, and Mayor Dan Curtis and council.
Living was unable to speak to what work has been done by the Department of Health and Social Services in selecting this site before this afternoon’s press deadline.
“Maybe there’s a good reason why this is better than any other location, but I’m suggesting, especially in light of the fact that I was told by the person who should know, who would have commissioned the policy analysis, that nothing was done,” Kenyon said.
“You wouldn’t believe stacks of documents ... that would generate on policy decisions in my day.
“You don’t make a million-dollar decision, based (on) no information.”
Geraldine Van Bibber, the Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek North, penned a letter to Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost on Jan. 26, highlighting many of the same concerns Kenyon expressed.
She underscored the need for the minister to host a meeting to consult with Porter Creek residents before any further work is done on the project – as Van Bibber said Frost should have done earlier in the process.
Pat Ross, the city’s manager of land and building services, confirmed last week that the city began receiving information about a development permit application for conditional use of the property at 22 Wann Rd. in December. The application was fully completed last week.
As zoning bylaw dictates, the city has since issued a notice of proposed development for the site, explaining to property owners that Health and Social Services is intending to develop a youth group home with a maximum of 10 residents and three on-site staff.
It invites written or emailed public submissions on the proposal, as well as verbal submissions. A public input session in front of city council is scheduled for Feb. 26.
In her Feb. 2 response to Van Bibber, which the Star obtained Monday afternoon, Frost wrote that “the City of Whitehorse has been providing us with guidance on the appropriate notification process, and the Department of Health and Social Services has followed this process accordingly.”
Van Bibber provided the Star a statement in response to Frost’s letter.
“I wrote to the minister and asked her to meet with and consult my constituents and her response makes no commitment to do so.
“This leaves us with the very distinct impression that the minister has no intention of doing so,” Van Bibber wrote.
“Further, the minister appears to be passing off her responsibility to the City of Whitehorse when it is her government that is moving forward with this initiative.
“Let’s be clear: this is the Liberal government’s decision and they are the ones responsible for consulting on it.”
Living told the Star this morning she believes the Department of Health and Social Services will be providing the public more substantial information about the government group home plan.
She could not confirm what form that will take.
There will be an administrative report uploaded by the city about the group home proposal by Feb. 16.
The Health and Social Services application for conditional use of the property can be viewed at the city’s land and building services office.